Documentation of female song in a newly recognized species, the Puerto Rican Oriole (Icterus portoricensis)

Susanna K. Campbell, Alcides L. Morales-Perez, John F. Malloy, Oliver C. Muellerklein, Jin A. Kim, Karan J. Odom, Kevin E. Omland


Evolutionary biologists often assume that male competition for females is the root of the evolution of elaborate coloration and song. However, recent findings show that in the ancestral history of songbirds, it is likely that song occurred in both males and females. Surprisingly, no data exist on female song for many species of birds. We investigated whether the Puerto Rican Oriole (Icterus portoricensis), a tropical songbird, exhibits both male and female song. For this project we marked individuals with sex-specific color bands and confirmed sex using genetic sexing. We repeatedly recorded both male and female orioles singing. Furthermore, female Puerto Rican Oriole song appears to be similar to male song, with no obvious differences in structure. Our study provides further evidence of the ubiquity of female song in tropical songbirds. Finally, our findings provide support that female song is ancestral in the Caribbean oriole clade, and that song dimorphism in temperate breeding species is a result of a loss of female song.

Biólogos evolutivos a menudo asumen que la competencia masculina para las mujeres es la raíz de la evolución de la coloración y canción. Sin embargo, recientes hallazgos muestran que los machos y las hembras ancestrales de todos los pájaros cantores probablemente cantaban; pero existen pocos datos sobre el canto de las hembras de muchas especies de aves. Nosotros investigamos el actuada canta de los hembras y los machos el pájaro, la Calandria Puertorriqueña (Icterus portoricensis). Para este proyecto, marcamos individuos de diferentes sexos con bandas de color específicas y confirmamos el sexo usando métodos genéticos. Adicionalmente; grabamos las canciones de ambos sexos de las Calandrias Puertorriqueñas. Somos los primeros en documentar canción de ambos sexos en esta especie. Por otra parte, la canción de la Calandria Puertorriqueña aparece ser similar a la canción de los machos, sin diferencias evidentes en la estructura de la canción. Nuestro estudio ofrece evidencia adicional de la omnipresencia de la canción femenina en las aves canoras tropicales. Por último, nuestros resultados respaldan la idea de que la canción femenina es ancestral en la clade de las calandrias caribes, y que el dimorfismo en la canción de especies de aves templadas es un resultado de la pérdida de la canción femenina.

Les biologistes évolutionnistes supposent souvent que la compétition entre mâles pour les femelles est à l’origine de l'évolution vers une coloration et un chant élaborés. Toutefois, des résultats récents montrent que, dans l'histoire ancestrale des oiseaux chanteurs, il est probable que le chant ait été présent à la fois par chez les mâles et chez les femelles. Étonnamment, aucune donnée n'existe sur le chant des femelles pour de nombreuses espèces d'oiseaux. Nous avons étudié si l'Oriole de Porto Rico (Icterus portoricensis), un oiseau chanteur tropical, présentait à la fois un chant mâle et un chant femelle. Pour ce projet, nous avons marqué les individus avec des bagues de couleurs différentes selon le sexe et confirmé le sexe par des analyses génétiques. Nous avons enregistré à plusieurs reprises des mâles et des femelles en train de chanter. En outre, le chant des femelles d't semble être similaire à celui des mâles, sans différence évidente dans la structure. Notre étude fournit une preuve supplémentaire de l'omniprésence du chant des femelles chez les oiseaux chanteurs tropicaux. Enfin, nos résultats soutiennent l'hypothèse affirmant que le chant des femelles est ancestral dans le clade des orioles des Caraïbes, et que le dimorphisme du chant chez les espèces nichant dans les régions tempérées est le résultat d'une disparition de chant chez les femelles.


Female Song; Female Vocalizations; Icterus portoricensis; Puerto Rican Oriole; Tropical Songbirds

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